KING 5: Prosecutor launching program to keep kids in school

SEATTLE – Seventy-five percent of Washington state prison inmates are high school dropouts.

“Being a dropout in the 21st century is not a good idea,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

Satterberg says many of them started their troubled legal lives in truancy court.

But a new court ruling says if you’re going to take kids to truancy court, you must provide them with a public defender. The prosecutor doesn’t like that idea.

“The county can’t afford to give them lawyers at every step of the way and I think giving a truant a lawyer to fight for their right to not be in school is a ridiculous waste of money,” said Satterberg.

So the prosecutor is changing course. Instead of court, he’s directing kids to new community truancy workshops.

It’s more cost-effective, and with the help of inspirational speakers and counselors, Satterberg hopes it will be more beneficial for the kids.

“We’re going to try to get to the root of the problem why these kids aren’t going to school and try to help them at that point,” he said.

The prosecutor is hoping budget constraints will end up being the mother of invention, keeping more kids on course and out of court.

“We don’t want to give up on these kids.  They’re truant now and truancy is a huge red flag.  We can’t ignore that red flag,” said Satterberg.

Satterberg says students who choose not to attend truancy workshops will still run the risk of being called to court

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